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Erecting a Colin Kaepernick statue at UNR passes one significant hurdle

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick was a star at Nevada before protesting police brutality while playing in the NFL. (File)

The Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) passed a resolution that supports building an on-campus statue of former Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the Nevada Sagebrush reported.

The student newspaper reported the ASUN Senate passed the measure in December 2020 and awaits a decision of UNR President Brian Sandoval, who was hired last September.

In June, UNR released seven initiatives it said it would take immediate action upon to address the impact of racism on campus. One of those action points read, "Bring thoughtful and prominent recognition celebrating Colin Kaepernick and those Black social justice pioneers who came before him on our campus." UNR was under the stewardship of then-president Marc Johnson at the time.

That statement followed a push from Nevada football player Blake Baughman, who started an online petition to bring Kaepernick's image back to the university beyond his likeness being prevalent at the Wolf Pack's athletic facilities.

Kaepernick has been a lightning-rod since kneeling during the national anthem prior to NFL games in 2016. He did so to bring attention to racial injustice and police brutality in the United States, specifically against minorities. Kaepernick, who starred for the Wolf Pack from 2006-10, has not been offered an NFL contract since 2016 despite statistically being one of the 20 best quarterbacks in the NFL that season.

"This is something that has to be said, that has to be brought to the forefront of everyone's attention," Kaepernick said at the time. "I'm going to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change, and when there's significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent in this country ... I'll stand."

Kaepernick was largely ostracized following his movement, which gained support last summer following the death of George Floyd, whose neck was knelt on for 8 minutes, 46 seconds by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin until he died. That sparked introspection across the country, including the seven-initiative statement from UNR in addition to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell offering an apology of sorts.

"The first thing I would say is, 'I wish we had listened earlier to Kap and what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,'" Goodell said in August. "We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue. I wish we had the benefit of that. We never did. And we would've benefited from that, absolutely."

Per the Nevada Sagebrush, the idea to recognize Kaepernick was the brainchild of recent graduate Wenei Philimon, who interviewed Black students, many who believed Kaepernick's image had been scrubbed from campus following his decision to kneel. Shortly after Kaepernick's graduation, the university started a "Kap Was Here" marketing campaign that included hanging banners of Kaepernick on light posts around campus. That campaign was slotted for a specific time period, according to university officials, before another campaign begun. Those banners are no longer on campus.

While Kaepernick's image is displayed in several athletic facilities along with the admissions office in the Joe Crowley Student Union and the Clark Administration building, some students have pushed for a more omnipresent presentation of Kaepernick, including the statue. The only statues on campus are of John Mackay, a major donor to the university, and Richard Bryan, the former president of ASUN who served in the Nevada Senate before stints at the Nevada attorney general, Nevada governor and in the U.S. Senate.

“This statue would make Black students feel like they are supported and are listened to," Philimon told the Nevada Sagebrush. "Additionally, it would showcase that their voices are being heard and not ignored like in the past. In the past, we have seen hate speech on this campus targeted towards Black students and yet nothing has been done concerning it.”

Philimon said she asked Sandoval if he would approve a statute of Kaepernick on campus and he seemed open to the diea.

“I asked him if he would be willing to put a Kaepernick statue on campus based on students’ requests, and he said he would consider it if a proposal was made,” Philimon told the Nevada Sagebrush.

The ASUN resolution is an important step toward creating a Kaepernick statue, but a proposal to Sandoval would be required as would securing the funding, finding an artist and getting approval from Sandoval and Kaepernick, who has not been to campus for several years. In October, Kaepernick was voted into the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

College of Liberal Arts Senator Lauren Harvey, who has been proactive in honoring Kaepernick, said a statue of him on campus would serve multiple purposes.

“In the same way that we’ve had hard discussions with students and faculty about this project, this statue will serve to engage the campus population in greater dialogue about what it means to be patriotic, what anti-racism means and to start having uncomfortable conversations about privilege and how we can work to become better peers to our diverse community,” Harvey told the Nevada Sagebrush.

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